12 The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,“Praise God!Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!Hail to the King of Israel!”14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.Look, your King is coming,riding on a donkey’s colt.”16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.17 Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” John 12:12-19
Can you imagine what it was like to be Lazarus?
He isn’t one of the 12 Apostles, but he is a dear friend of Jesus. And he is here to celebrate Jesus coming to Jerusalem. But he is as much of a celebrity as Jesus. Maybe more so. Many of the crowd are talking about when Lazarus stepped out of the tomb alive and well. And that’s one of the things that has brought so many people to come see Jesus today.
Who wouldn’t want to see, hear, touch, meet the person who brought a man back from the dead?
But what about Lazarus? What is he thinking? I can’t help but wonder as I watch him celebrating his friend’s arrival. As I watch the smile that spreads across his face and radiates the incredible joy and gratitude that fills him. As I watch him watch his friend. His savior.
Does he know that Jesus is here to die?
Does he know that Jesus will suffer greatly before he dies?
Does he know that like him, Jesus will step out of the tomb? Alive and well? Resurrected? Radiating Life itself?
Standing here in the midst of the crowd I yearn to sidle over to Lazarus and pull him away from the crowd. To bend his ear. To ask him what it was like to die. Did he go to heaven? Did he see God? Did he witness the mourning that came before the joy that dawned at the sound of Jesus’ voice?
I want Lazarus to tell me what he’s thinking as we stand together and watch the crowd swell around Jesus.
I want him to share what he knows of God and Jesus and heaven.
In fact, I want to know the secrets that he knows. I want to know what it is to be that close to Jesus. I want to know what it is like to be so intimately linked to him that he wept for you, that he restored you, that he resurrected you.
And that’s when it hits me. Those are not Lazarus’s secrets alone. Jesus is intimately linked to me. He loves me. He has wept for me, restored me, resurrected me.
Because Jesus died for me.
Like Lazarus, this man I am watching and that I am standing beside, Jesus brought me back to life. No, he did not call me from the grave. But he did call me out of the pit of despair and he did breathe new life into me and he did call me by my name. Because he loves me.
Every night at bedtime, I sing the song, Jesus Loves Me to my girls, except that ever since they were babies I have sung it as, Jesus Loves You. When you sing those words enough, when you hear those words enough, they take on a bigger, deeper meaning.
I’m weak. He doesn’t care.
I’m afraid. He doesn’t care.
I’m needy. He doesn’t care. (In fact, he loves this about me.)
I am dead. He doesn’t care.
Because he is Life. And he wants to share that Life — His life — with me.
This journey to Jerusalem is filled with truths such as these. And even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to take this trip with him, Jesus is okay with that. He is okay with my faltering steps because he sees the desires of my heart.
The desire that longs for him and that pursues him and that leaves the darkness behind for him. The desire to draw near to him in spite of my fear. The desire to know the celebration that comes when we choose to follow him.
The desire to come to Life.